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Rise in EI recipients 'not surprising': BC minister Hansen

The number of British Columbians receiving Employment Insurance benefits is rising so fast because times had previously been so good, finance minister Colin Hansen said today.

“I think if you look back over the last ten years you'll see successive years where the numbers on EI in British Columbia dropped very dramatically,” said Hansen. “We're coming off a low level compared to historically and yeah, we're going through challenging economic times.”

Statistics Canada announced today that the number of people receiving federal unemployment benefits grew by 7.1 percent countrywide from August to September, and by 12.8 percent in B.C.. The spike in B.C. took the number receiving benefits to more than double a year earlier and was the largest growth in any province besides Alberta.

B.C. had record low unemployment two years ago, said Hansen. “That we're seeing more come onto EI is not surprising, but we have a long ways to go before we hit the kind of levels we've been at in years gone by.”

New Democratic Party finance critic Bruce Ralston said the growth in the number of people receiving EI benefits is a sign the provincial economy remains unstable.

It's a bad time to introduce the harmonized sales tax, he said. The tax will combine the PST and GST in one 12 percent tax starting in July, 2010. Asked Ralston, “Why introduce a bad tax given the continued downturn in the economy?”

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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